Doping, bad judging ― and real heroesWhen the stadiums in Athens are empty, what will be these Olympics be remembered for?
Will they be remembered as living proof that even small nations, with a little bit of help, can host the Olympics? Will they be remembered as the place when the sane world took on terrorists and prevailed?
Not likely. Despite the fact that the Athens Games were a real feast, drugs and judging controversies will be their legacy.
More cheaters than ever ― 15 and counting ― tried to beat the system. There is no telling how many went undetected. In the tit-for-tat war on drugs, it is likely that those who choose the easy way to a medal will always be a step ahead, thanks to designer drugs. Right now, depending on the federation, after a couple of years the athlete in question is allowed back into the Games. It should not be like this. A lifetime ban from all international competitions is the minimum due here. This would not stop drug use, but it would give culprits something to think about.
As for judging, when scores are changed because of a booing crowd, you know the situation has hit rock bottom. It can only get better after this, right? Only if the International Olympic Committee takes proper action. Right now, the IOC does not get involved too much, leaving it up to each sports federation to deal with judging controversies.
The committee should take a more proactive approach and examine sports, such as gymnastics, that continue to show problems. To sit back and hope that matters will take care of themselves is the approach that’s been taken so far, and look where it has landed us. Fair competition is the essence of the Olympics. If that is not ensured, why would anybody bother to show up?
Finally, we, the spectators and the media, should change the way we watch the Games. It should be noted that the Olympic rankings often used by the media are not official IOC rankings. The IOC does not rank countries. The rankings are just a convenient tool, provided (by the media) to compare countries’ performances. This is a secondary issue.
Merely taking part in the Olympics should be cause for celebration, and reason to take pride. Ask the Iraqi soccer team. For them, it was all about being there. They won no medal. Yet they are heroes in their own right. And they will be remembered for a long time. We have to remember that these athletes are the best men and women of their respective countries. Picture yourself pitted in a judo match against any of the participants. How long would you last?
The words of Kim Myeong-seon, father of Kim Dae-eun, who won the silver medal in the men’s gymnastics all-around, should strike a chord. “I really don’t care what the color of the medal is,” he said. “He won one. That’s something. That’s incredible. If that’s not enough for the people, what is?” Mr. Kim said he wouldn’t change his opinion even in the unlikely event that a decision on Yang Tae-young’s score changes his son’s silver medal to a bronze.
Could it be that one reason we care so much about gold medals is that we see ourselves in the athletes? If so, we should think about the years of sweat they shed just to be there. How many of them do you think go to the Games thinking they have a shot at winning a medal? There is no disgrace in coming back empty-handed.
by Brian Lee